Wind power in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is the best location for wind power in Europe and one of the best in the world.[2][3] The combination of long coastline, shallow water and strong winds make offshore wind unusually effective.[4]

Two of the wind turbines at the Black Law Wind Farm in Scotland

British grid electricity in 2022[1]

  Natural gas (38.5%)
  Coal (1.5%)
  Wind (26.8%)
  Nuclear (15.5%)
  Biomass (5.2%)
  Solar (4.4%)
  Hydro (1.8%)
  Storage (0.9%)
  Imports (5.5%)

By 2023, the UK had over 11 thousand wind turbines with a total installed capacity of 30 gigawatts (GW): 15 GW onshore and 15 GW offshore,[5] the sixth largest capacity of any country.[6] Wind power is the largest source of renewable energy in the UK, but at under 5% still far less primary energy than oil or fossil gas.[7]: 13  However, wind power generates electricity which is far more powerful in terms of useful energy than the same amount of thermal primary energy. Wind generates more than a quarter of UK electricity, but less than gas over a whole year.[8]

Polling of public opinion consistently shows strong support for wind power in the UK, with nearly three-quarters of the population agreeing with its use, even for people living near onshore wind turbines.[9]

The government has committed to a major expansion of offshore capacity to 50 GW by 2030,[10][11] with 5GW from floating wind.[12] One reason for this is to improve energy security.[13]

History edit

Blyth's "windmill" at his cottage in Marykirk in 1891
UK Wind farm rated capacity by region
(installed 2015 and 2020, projected by 2025)[14][15]
UK wind farm capacity by region (table of figures)
UK Region Onshore wind capacity Offshore wind capacity
2015 (MW) 2020 (MW) 2015 (MW) 2020 (MW) 2025 (MW)
Scotland 5,413 7,543 174 889 2,743
N.W. England 111 193 1,087 2,005 2,005
N.E.England 116 170 62 102 102
Yorks & Humber 771 806 429 1,659 8,045
N. Ireland 365 472 0 0 0
Wales 448 936 726 726 726
East Midlands 56 56 464 464 1,321
Eastern 131 157 1,053 2,381 2,381
S.E. England 60 60 1,070 1,470 1,470
S.W. England 20 20 0 0 0
UK Totals 7,491 10,414 5,064 9,695 18,792

The world's first electricity generating wind turbine was a battery charging machine installed in July 1887 by Scottish academic James Blyth to light his holiday home in Marykirk, Scotland.[16] It was in 1951 that the first utility grid-connected wind turbine to operate in the United Kingdom was built by John Brown & Company in the Orkney Islands.[16][17] In the 1970s, industrial scale wind generation was first proposed as an electricity source for the United Kingdom; the higher working potential of offshore wind was recognised with a capital cost per kilowatt estimated at £150 to £250.[18]

In 2007 the United Kingdom Government agreed to an overall European Union target of generating 20% of the EU's energy supply from renewable sources by 2020. Each EU member state was given its own allocated target: for the United Kingdom it is 15%. This was formalised in January 2009 with the passage of the EU Renewables Directive. As renewable heat and renewable fuel production in the United Kingdom are at extremely low bases, RenewableUK estimated that this would require 35–40% of the United Kingdom's electricity to be generated from renewable sources by that date,[19] to be met largely by 33–35 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind capacity.

In December 2007, the Government announced plans for an expansion of wind energy in the United Kingdom, by conducting a Strategic Environmental Assessment of up to 25 GW worth of wind farm offshore sites in preparation for a new round of development. These proposed sites were in addition to the 8 GW worth of sites already awarded in the two earlier rounds of site allocations, Round 1 in 2001 and Round 2 in 2003. Taken together it was estimated that this would result in the construction of over 7,000 offshore wind turbines.[20]

In 2010, 653 MW of offshore wind came online. The following year, only one offshore wind farm, phase 1 of the Walney Wind Farm, was completed in 2011 with a capacity of 183 MW. On 28 December 2011 wind power set a then record contribution to the United Kingdom's demand for electricity of 12.2%.[21]

2012 was a significant year for the offshore wind industry with 4 large wind farms becoming operational with over 1.1 GW of generating capability coming on stream.[22] In the year July 2012 to June 2013, offshore wind farms with a capacity of 1.463 GW were installed, for the first time growing faster than onshore wind which grew by 1.258 GW.[23] The offshore wind industry continued to develop in 2013 with what was once the largest wind farm in the world, the London Array, becoming operational with over 630 MW of generating capability coming on stream.[24]

During 2013, 27.4 TWh of energy was generated by wind power, which contributed 8.7% of the UK's electricity demand.[25]

On 1 August 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg opened the Lincs Offshore Wind Farm. On commissioning the total capacity of wind power exceeded 10 GW of installed capacity.[citation needed] In 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron said that people were "fed up" with wind turbines being built close to homes; onshore wind subsidies were removed and in 2015 planning rules changed to give local authorities strong controls on wind turbine development, greatly reducing onshore deployment.[26]

During 2014, 28.1 TWh of energy was generated by wind power (an average of 3.2 GW, about 24% of the 13.5 GW installed capacity at the time), which contributed 9.3% of the UK's electricity requirement.[27] In the same year, Siemens announced plans to build a £310 million ($264 million)[dubious ] facility for making offshore wind turbines in Paull, England, as Britain's wind power capacity rapidly expanded. Siemens chose the Hull area on the east coast of England because it is close to other large offshore projects planned in coming years. The new plant began producing turbine rotor blades in December 2016.[28] The plant and the associated service centre, in Green Port Hull nearby, will employ about 1,000 workers.[29]

In the first three months of 2023, Britain's wind turbines generated more electricity (32.4%) than gas-fired power stations (31.7%) for the first time.[30]

During 2015, 40.4 TW·h of energy was generated by wind power and the quarterly generation record was set in the three-month period from October to December 2015, with 13% of the nation's electricity demand met by wind.[31] 2015 saw 1.2 GW of new wind power capacity brought online, a 9.6% increase of the total UK installed capacity. Three large offshore wind farms came on stream in 2015, Gwynt y Môr (576 MW max. capacity), Humber Gateway (219 MW) and Westermost Rough (210 MW).

In 2016, the chief executive of DONG Energy (now known as Ørsted A/S), the UK's largest wind farm operator, predicted that wind power could supply more than half of the UK's electricity demand in the future. He pointed to the tumbling cost of green energy as evidence that wind and solar could supplant fossil fuels quicker than expected.[32]

By 2020, climate change concerns led to greater public support for wind turbines, but despite government policy stating onshore wind is a "key building block" for electricity generation it was unclear if the 2015 onshore planning restrictions would be eased.[26] In 2022 three-quarters of the UK population supported further wind generated power in the UK and the majority would be happy for a wind farm to be built near them.[33]

In 2022, wind generation in the UK exceeded 20 GW for the first time, reaching 20.9 GW between 1200h and 1230h on 2 November 2022.[34] This was followed in 2023 with a record 21.6 GW on 10 January during a period of strong winds.[35]

UK wind power capacity and generation
Year[36] Cumulative
Capacity factor %
(Onshore %, Offshore %)
% of total
electricity use
2008 2,974 5,357 20.6 1.50 [37]
2009 4,051 6,904 19.5 2.01 [37]
2010 5,204 7,950 17.4 2.28 [37]
2011 6,540 12,675 22.1 3.81
2012 8,871 20,710 26.7 5.52
2013 10,976 24,500 25.5 7.39 [38]
2014 12,440 28,100 25.8 9.30 [39]
2015 13,602 40,442 33.9 11.0 [40]
2016 16,218 37,368 26.3 12 [41]
2017 19,837 49,607 28.5 17 [41][42]
2018 21,700 57,100 30.0 18 [43][44]
2019 23,950
32% 21 [45][46]
2020 24,485 75,369 ~35.5
(28, 46)
24 [47]
2021 25,730 64,460 ~29.3
(23, 37)
21 [47]
2022 28,759 80,162 (27.3, 41.1) 24.6 [48]
Yearly wind power generation in the United Kingdom[49]

Wind farms edit

Burbo Bank
Greater Gabbard 1
Greater Gabbard 2
Gunfleet Sands
Gwynt y Môr
Humber Gateway
Kentish Flats
London Array
Lynn and Inner Dowsing
North Hoyle
Rhyl Flats
Robin Rigg
Scroby Sands
Sheringham Shoal
Wave Hub
Westermost Rough
West of Duddon Sands
European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre
Hywind Scotland
Race Bank
Sherringham Shoal
Milton Keynes
Glass Moor
McCain Foods
Ransonmoor Farm
Red Tile
Stags Holt
Bears Down
Carland Cross
Cold Northcott
Four Burrows
Goonhilly Repowering
St Breock
WWF Roskrow Barton
Broom Hill
Hare Hill No. 2
High Hedley Hope
High Volts
Holmside Hall
Langley Park
Tow Law
Trimdon Grange
High Swainston
West Durham
WWA High Sharpley
Askam and Ireleth
Great Orton
Harlock Hill
Kirkby Moor
Wharrels Hill
Winscales Moor
WWU High Pow
Carsington Pasture
Lissett Airfield
Bristol Port
Out Newton
Little Cheyne Court
Caton Moor
Coal Clough
Scout Moor
WWP Hameldon Hill
Bambers Farm
Bicker Fen
Deeping St Nicholas
Gedney Marsh
The Hollies
Mersey Docks
Royal Seaforth Dock
Blood Hill
North Pickenham
Knabs Ridge
Burton Wold
Blyth Harbour
Royd Moor
Great Eppleton Repowering
Nissan Motors Plant
Chelker Reservoir
Ovenden Moor
Loftsome Bridge
Brett Martin
Garves Mountain
Elliot's Hill
Wolf Bog
Balloo Wood
Slieve Rushen
Tappaghan Mountain
Rigged Hill
Bessy Bell
Bessy Bell
Bin Mountain
Hunter's Hill
Lendrum's Bridge
Lough Hill
Slieve Divena
Ulster University
Boyndie Airfield
Glens of Foudland
Hill of Balquhindachy
Hill of Eastertown
Hill of Fiddes
Hill of Skelmonae
House O Hill
North Redbog
St John's Wells
Strath of Brydock
Upper Ardgrain
Beinn an Tuirc
Beinn Ghlas
Cruach Mhor
Deucheran Hill
Artfield Fell
North Rhins
Wether Hill
Windy Standard
Michelin Tyre Factory
Hare Hill
Myres Hill
Achairn Farm
Achany Estate
Beinn Tharsuinn
Ben Aketil
Fairburn Estate
Gigha Community
Findhorn Foundation
Paul's Hill
Wardlaw Wood
Hagshaw Hill
Bu Farm
Burgar Hill
Hammars Hill
Green Knowes
Black Hill
Crystal Rig
Dun Law
Hadyard Hill
Black Law
Hagshaw Hill
Lochhead Farm
Braes of Doune
Burnfoot Hill
Pates Hill
Arnish Moor
Llyn Alaw
Blaen Bowi
Parc Cynog
Cefn Croes
Dyffryn Brodyn
Mynydd Gorddu
Moel Maelogen
Tir Mostyn & Foel Goch
Wern Ddu
Braich Ddu Farm
Hafoty Ucha
Ffynnon Oer
Castle Pill Farm
Bryn Titli
Llandinam P&L
Mynydd Clogau
Taff Ely
Arklow Bank
Ballincollig Hill
Beal Hill
Beam Hill
Black Banks
Caranne Hill
Coomacheo 1
Coomacheo 2
Corry Mountain
Cronelea Upper
Curragh, Co Cork
Grouse Lodge
Kilgarvan Extension
Lacka Cross
Lahanaght Hill
Largan Hill
Mace Upper
Meenadreen and Meentycat
Glanlee Midas
Milane Hill
Mount Eagle
Mount Lucas
Mountain Lodge
Raheen Barr
Sonnagh Old
Sorne Hill
Spion Kop
La Haute Chèvre
Le Mesnil-Opac
Les Hauts Vents
Les Longs Champs
Harpen Hauts Traits
Harpen Petits Caux
La Gaillarde
Les Marettes
Les Vatines
Le Mont d'Aunay
Le Portel
Les Deux-Côtes
Locations of wind farms in and around the United Kingdom and Ireland

Offshore edit

Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm.

The total offshore wind power capacity installed in the United Kingdom at the start of 2022 was 11.3 GW. The United Kingdom became the world leader of offshore wind power generation in October 2008 when it overtook Denmark.[50] In 2013, the 175-turbine London Array wind farm, located off the Kent coast, became the largest offshore wind farm in the world; this was surpassed in 2018 by the Walney 3 Extension.

The United Kingdom has been estimated to have over a third of Europe's total offshore wind resource, which is equivalent to three times the electricity needs of the nation at current rates of electricity consumption[51] (In 2010 peak winter demand was 59.3 GW,[52] in summer it drops to about 45 GW). One estimate calculates that wind turbines in one third of United Kingdom waters shallower than 25 metres (82 ft) would, on average, generate 40 GW; turbines in one third of the waters between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (164 ft) depth would on average generate a further 80 GW, i.e. 120 GW in total.[53] An estimate of the theoretical maximum potential of the United Kingdom's offshore wind resource in all waters to 700 metres (2,300 ft) depth gives the average power as 2200 GW.[54]

The first developments in United Kingdom offshore wind power came about through the now discontinued Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO), leading to two wind farms, Blyth Offshore and Gunfleet sands.[55] The NFFO was introduced as part of the Electricity Act 1989 and obliged United Kingdom electricity supply companies to secure specified amounts of electricity from non-fossil sources,[56] which provided the initial spur for the commercial development of renewable energy in the United Kingdom.

2001 saw 17 applications being granted permission to proceed in what has become known as Round 1 of United Kingdom offshore wind development.[57]

Offshore wind projects completed in 2010–2011 had a levelised cost of electricity of £136/MWh, which fell to £131/MWh for projects completed in 2012–14 and £121/MWh for projects approved in 2012–2014; the industry hopes to get the cost down to £100/MWh for projects approved in 2020.[58]

The construction price for offshore windfarms has fallen by almost a third since 2012 while technology improved and developers think a new generation of even larger turbines will enable yet more future cost reductions.[59] In 2017 the UK built 53% of the 3.15 GW European offshore wind farm capacity.[60] In 2020, Boris Johnson pledged that, by the end of the decade, offshore wind would generate enough energy to power every UK home.[61]

At the start of 2022 there was a total of 11.26 GW of installed offshore wind capacity.[47] During 2022 an additional 3.2 GW of capacity was added with the commissioning of the Moray East, Triton Knoll and Hornsea Project Two wind farms.[62][63][64] A further 13.6 GW of capacity is either under construction (Neart Na Gaoithe, Sofia, Seagreen & Doggerbank A) or has been awarded a Contract for Difference in Round 3[65] or Round 4.[66]

Future plans edit

The UK has accelerated its decommissioning of coal power stations aiming for a 2024 phase-out date,[67] and recent British nuclear power stations have encountered significant technical issues and project overruns that have resulted in significant increases in project costs.[68] These issues have resulted in new UK nuclear projects failing to secure project financing. Similarly, SMR technology is not currently economically competitive with offshore wind in the UK. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster public support for new nuclear has fallen.[69] In response, the UK government increased its previous commitment for 40 GW of Offshore wind capacity by 2030.[70] As of 2020, this represents a 355% increase over current capacity in 10 years. It is expected the Crown Estate will announce multiple new leasing Rounds and increases to existing bidding areas throughout the 2020–2030 period to achieve the government's aim of 40 GW.

In 2023 the UK Government increased offshore wind planned by the UK by 2030 to 50GW, [71] and has a pipeline of offshore wind power schemes of 100GW.[72]

Scottish offshore edit

In addition to the UK Round 3 auction, the Scottish Government and the Crown Estate also called for bids on potential sites within Scottish territorial waters. These were originally considered as too deep to provide viable sites, but 17 companies submitted tenders and the Crown Estate initially signed exclusivity agreements with 9 companies for 6 GW worth of sites. Following publication of the Scottish Government's sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy in Scottish territorial waters in March 2010,[73] six sites were given approval subject to securing detailed consent. Subsequently, 4 sites have been granted agreements for lease.[74]

In 2022 Crown Estate announced the outcome of its application process for ScotWind Leasing, the first Scottish offshore wind leasing round in over a decade and the first ever since the management of offshore wind rights were devolved to Scotland. 17 projects were selected with a capacity of 25 GW.

Scotland has a target for 2030, made in 2023, of 11GW of offshore wind by 2030. This would represent an increase of 400% in offshore wind and a 60% increase in total wind generated power[75]

Onshore edit

Specialist trailers deliver turbine components to Dorenell Wind Farm.[76]
Turbine blade convoy for Scout Moor Wind Farm passing through Edenfield.
Hafoty Sion Llwyd, on the shore of Llyn Brenig
The Ardrossan Wind Farm in North Ayrshire, Scotland

The first commercial wind farm was built in 1991 at Delabole in Cornwall;[77] it consisted of 10 turbines each with a capacity to generate a maximum of 400 kW. Following this, the early 1990s saw a small but steady growth with half a dozen farms becoming operational each year; the larger wind farms tended to be built on the hills of Wales, examples being Rhyd-y-Groes, Llandinam, Bryn Titli and Carno. Smaller farms were also appearing on the hills and moors of Northern Ireland and England. The end of 1995 saw the first commercial wind farm in Scotland go into operation at Hagshaw Hill. The late 1990s saw sustained growth as the industry matured. In 2000, the first turbines capable of generating more than 1 MW were installed and the pace of growth started to accelerate as the larger power companies like Scottish Power and Scottish & Southern became increasingly involved in order to meet legal requirements to generate a certain amount of electricity using renewable means (see Renewables obligations below). Wind turbine development continued rapidly and by the mid-2000s 2 MW+ turbines were the norm. In 2007, the German wind turbine producer Enercon installed the first 6 MW model ("E-126"); The nameplate capacity was changed from 6 MW to 7 MW after technical revisions were performed in 2009 and to 7.5 MW in 2010.

Growth continued with bigger farms and larger, more efficient turbines sitting on taller and taller masts. Scotland's sparsely populated, hilly and windy countryside became a popular area for developers and the United Kingdom's first 100 MW+ farm went operational in 2006 at Hadyard Hill in South Ayrshire.[78] 2006 also saw the first use of the 3 MW turbine. In 2008, the largest onshore wind farm in England was completed on Scout Moor[79] and the repowering of the Slieve Rushen Wind Farm created the largest farm in Northern Ireland.[80] In 2009, the largest wind farm in the United Kingdom went live at Whitelee on Eaglesham Moor in Scotland.[81] This is a 539 MW wind farm consisting of 215 turbines. Approval has been granted to build several more 100 MW+ wind farms on hills in Scotland and will feature 3.6 MW turbines.

As of September 2013, there were 458 operational onshore wind farms in the United Kingdom with a total of 6565 MW of nameplate capacity. A further 1564 MW of capacity is currently being constructed, while another 4.8 GW of schemes have planning consent.[22]

In 2009, United Kingdom onshore wind farms generated 7,564 GW·h of electricity; this represents a 2% contribution to the total United Kingdom electricity generation (378.5 TW·h).[82]

Large onshore wind farms are usually directly connected to the National Grid, but smaller wind farms are connected to a regional distribution network, termed "embedded generation". In 2009 nearly half of wind generation capacity was embedded generation, but this is expected to reduce in future years as larger wind farms are built.[83]

Gaining planning permission for onshore wind farms continues to prove difficult, with many schemes stalled in the planning system and a high rate of refusal.[84][85] The RenewableUK (formerly BWEA) figures show that there are approximately 7,000 MW worth of onshore schemes waiting for planning permission. On average, a wind farm planning application takes two years to be considered by a local authority, with an approval rate of 40%. This compares extremely unfavourably with other types of major applications, such as housing, retail outlets and roads, 70% of which are decided within the 13- to 16-week statutory deadline; for wind farms the rate is just 6%.[citation needed] Approximately half of all wind farm planning applications, over 4 GW worth of schemes, have objections from airports and traffic control on account of their impact on radar. In 2008 NATS en Route, the BWEA, the Ministry of Defence and other government departments signed a Memorandum of Understanding seeking to establish a mechanism for resolving objections and funding for more technical research.

Wind farms in the UK often have to meet a maximum height limit of 125 m (410 ft) (excluding Scotland). However, modern lower cost wind turbines installed on the continent are over 200 m (660 ft) tall.[86] This planning criteria has stunted the development of onshore wind in the UK.

List of the largest operational and proposed onshore wind farms edit

UK Onshore wind farms
Wind farm County Country Turbine model Power (MW)
each turbine
No. Turbines Total capacity
Notes and references
Crystal Rig Scottish Borders Scotland Nordex N80/ Siemens SWT-2.3 2.5/2.3 25/60 200.5 May 2004 Extended May 2007 (1a) & September 2010 (2 & 2a)
Cefn Croes Ceredigion Wales GE 1.5 se 1.5 39 58.5 June 2005
Black Law South Lanarkshire Scotland Siemens SWT-2.3 2.3 88 124 September 2005 Extended September 2006 (Phase 2)
Hadyard Hill South Ayrshire Scotland Bonus B2300 2.5 52 120 March 2006
Farr Highland Scotland Bonus B2300 2.3 40 92 May 2006
Slieve Rushen County Fermanagh Northern Ireland Vestas V90 3 18 54 April 2008 Largest onshore farm in Northern Ireland
Scout Moor Lancashire England Nordex N80 2.5 26 65 September 2008
Little Cheyne
Kent England Nordex 2.3 2.3 26 59.8 November 2008
Whitelee East Renfrewshire Scotland Siemens SWT-2.3 2.3 140 322 November 2008 Largest operational onshore wind farm in the United Kingdom
Arecleoch South Ayrshire Scotland Gamesa G87[87] 2 60 120 June 2011 Construction began October 2008, completed in June 2011[88]
Griffin Perth & Kinross Scotland Siemens SWT-2.3[89] 2.3 68 156.4 February 2012 Construction began August 2010, completed in February 2012[90]
Clyde South Lanarkshire Scotland Siemens SWT-2.3 2.3 152 350 September 2012 Construction began January 2010, completed in September 2012[91]
Fallago Rig Scottish Borders Scotland Vestas V90[92] 3 48 144 April 2013 Construction finished April 2013[93]
East Renfrewshire Scotland Alstom ECO 100/ECO 74 3/1.6 69/6 217 April 2013 Construction finished April 2013[94]
Keadby Wind Farm Lincolnshire England Vestas V90 2 34 68 July 2014 First power produced September 2013, England's largest onshore wind farm, Completed July 2014[95]
Harestanes Dumfries & Galloway Scotland Gamesa G87 2 68 136 July 2014 [96]
Clashindarroch Wind Farm Aberdeenshire Scotland Senvion MM82 2.05 18 36.9 March 2015 Construction began June 2013[97]
Bhlaraidh Highland Scotland Vestas V112/V117 3.45 32 108 August 2017 All 32 turbines connected to the grid.[98]
Pen y Cymoedd Neath Port Talbot & Rhondda Cynon Taf Wales Siemens SWT-3.0 3 76 228 September 2017 Officially opened on 28 September.[99] Largest onshore wind farm in Wales.
Phase 2)
Dumfries & Galloway Scotland Gamesa G90/G114 2.5 96 239 2017 [100]
Clyde Extension South Lanarkshire Scotland Siemens SWT-3.0 3.2 54 172.8 2017 [101]
Stronelairg Highland Scotland 3.45 66 227 December 2018[102] Construction started March 2017[103] First power in March 2018.[104]
Dorenell Moray Scotland 3 59 177 March 2019[105][106] Last turbine base completed in September 2018.[107]
South Kyle Dumfries & Galloway Scotland Nordex Delta 4000 4.8 50 240 Wind farm online June 2023.[108]
Viking Wind Farm Shetland Islands Scotland 4.3 103 443 2024/2025 Consent granted April 2012 with reduced number of turbines. Construction started in 2020.[109][110]
Stornoway Western Isles Scotland 5? 36? 200.00 2024/2025 Consent granted in 2012. First use of 5 MW turbines onshore. Successful in Contracts for Difference Allocation Round 4[111]
Muaitheabhal Western Isles Scotland 3.6 33 189 estimated 2023/2024 Halted in October 2014 due to external delays[112] Successful in the spring 2019 capacity auction[113]
Hesta Head Orkney Isles Scotland 4.08 5 20.40 estimated 2023/2024 Successful in the spring 2019 capacity auction[113]
Druim Leathann Western Isles Scotland 49.50 estimated 2024/2025 Successful in the spring 2019 capacity auction[113]
Costa Head Orkney Isles Scotland 4.08 4 16.32 estimated 2023/2024 Successful in the spring 2019 capacity auction[113]
Llandinam – Repower Powys Wales 3 34 102 Consent granted in 2015.
Cumberhead West Scotland 119.70 2024/2025 Successful in Contracts for Difference Allocation Round 4[111]
Stranoch Scotland 99.96 2024/2025 Successful in Contracts for Difference Allocation Round 4[111]
North Kyle Energy Project Scotland 212.00 2024/2025 Successful in Contracts for Difference Allocation Round 4[111]
Chirmorie Scotland 81.60 2024/2025 Successful in Contracts for Difference Allocation Round 4[111]

Economics edit

Subsidies and taxes edit

From 2002 to 2015, windfarms were subsidised through the Renewables Obligation where British electricity suppliers were required by law to provide a proportion of their sales from renewable sources such as wind power or pay a penalty fee. The supplier then received Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) for each MW·h of electricity they have purchased.[114] The Energy Act 2008 introduced banded ROCs for different technologies from April 2009. Onshore wind receives 1 ROC per MWh, but since the Renewables Obligation Banding Review in 2009, offshore wind has received 2 ROCs to reflect its higher costs of generation.[115] In Northern Ireland, a banding of 4 ROCs is available for small onshore turbines.[116]

Wind energy received approximately 40% of the total revenue generated by the Renewables Obligation,[117] and ROCs provided over half of the revenue of the wind farms involved.[118] The total annual cost of the Renewables Obligation reached £6.3 billion in 2019–20, of which 67% was for wind power.[119] This cost was added to end-user electricity bills. Sir David King warned that this could increase UK levels of fuel poverty.[120]

The government closed the Renewables Obligation to new onshore wind power projects in 2016.[121] Support for offshore wind was moved into the government's Contract for Difference (CfD) regime.[122] Support for wind power under this programme rose to £1.7 billion in 2020, with £1.6 billion of that total shared between six offshore windfarms.[123]

In 2023 there is an effective windfall tax.[124][125]

Costs edit

The economics of wind power are driven by factors such as the capital, operating and finance costs, as well as the operational performance or capacity factor. These factors are in turn affected by issues such as location, turbine size and spacing and, for offshore windfarms, water depth and distance from shore. Operating costs and performance change over a windfarm's life, and several years of data are required before an assessment of the trajectory of these figures can be made.[126]

A review of financial accounts published by the Renewable Energy Foundation in 2020 showed that UK offshore windfarm capital costs rose steadily from 2002 to around 2013, before stabilising and perhaps falling slightly.[126] Operating costs have risen steadily up to the time of the study, but financing costs have fallen. This picture has been confirmed by a comprehensive review of audited accounts data for UK offshore windfarms, which found that levelised costs rose from around £60–70/MWh for early projects, to around £140–160/MWh by 2010–13, before stabilising.[127]

The Renewable Energy Foundation study also examined onshore wind costs, finding that capital costs had risen to around 2011 before declining slightly thereafter, while operating costs had risen steadily.[126] Estimates of the levelised cost of UK onshore wind are older. A 2011 study by the engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald put onshore wind costs at £83/MWh, below new nuclear at £96/MWh.[128]

Auction bids edit

In the UK's contract for difference auctions of 2017 and 2019, offshore windfarms made bids to supply the grid at strike prices much lower than anything seen before: £57.50/MWh in the 2017 auction[129] and £39.65/MWh in the 2019 one.[130] These values are below the ostensible windfarm costs outlined in the previous section, and have therefore been widely taken as evidence of a fundamental change in the economics of offshore wind power; in other words that technological advances have led to much lower costs.

There has been no similar reduction in bidding prices from onshore windfarms. The lowest successful bid under the CfD regime has been £79.99/MWh.[131]

Effects on electricity price edit

The building of UK wind farms has been supported through the Renewables Obligation and, since 2016, by price guarantee support through the Contracts for Difference regime too. The 2018 levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of offshore wind was in the range £100–150/MWh.[127] However, in recent CfD auctions, strike prices as low as £39.65/MWh have been agreed for offshore wind projects, which has led to an assumption that there has been an equivalent reduction in the underlying costs.[132][133] Due to the structure of the contract for difference arrangements wind generators pay the government when power prices exceed the strike price.[134] Wholesale power prices averaged £57/MWh in 2018 and £113/MWh in 2021 before spiking above £400/MWh in 2022.[135]

Offshore wind has historically been more expensive than onshore wind, but in 2016 it was predicted that it would have the lowest levelised cost of electricity in the United Kingdom in 2020 when a carbon cost was applied to generating technologies.[136]: p25  In the 2022 AR4 CFD auction, offshore wind cleared at an average price of £37.35/MWh versus onshore winds average price of £42.47/MWh (both 2012 prices).[137]

Historically, wind power had raised costs of electricity slightly. In 2015, it was estimated that the use of wind power in the UK had added £18 to the average yearly electricity bill.[138] This was the additional cost to consumers of using wind to generate about 9.3% of the annual total (see table below) – about £2 for each 1%.

Actual cost performance edit

A statistical and econometric analysis of a majority of onshore and offshore windfarms built in the United Kingdom since 2002 with a capacity of more than 10MW has been performed by a former professor of the School of Economics at the University of Edinburgh on behalf of an anti wind power organisation. It finds that the actual cost of onshore and offshore wind generation has not fallen significantly. Rather, capital and operating costs per MW have increased, the latter driven by higher than expected frequency of equipment failure and preventative maintenance associated with new generations of larger turbines. The study concludes that, after current contracts guaranteeing above-market prices expire, expected revenues from generation will be less than operating cost. If confirmed, this would require financial regulators to impose heavy risk weightings on loans to offshore wind farm operators, effectively making them too risky for pension funds and small investors.[139]

Variability and related issues edit

Onshore capacity factor by season[140]
Daytime Overnight Overall
Winter 44% 36% 38%
Summer 31% 13% 20%

Wind-generated power is a variable resource, and the amount of electricity produced at any given point in time by a given plant will depend on wind speeds, air density and turbine characteristics (among other factors). If wind speed is too low (less than about 2.5 m/s) then the wind turbines will not be able to make electricity, and if it is too high (more than about 25 m/s) the turbines will have to be shut down to avoid damage. When this happens other power sources must have the capacity to meet demand,[51][141] Three reports on the wind variability in the United Kingdom issued in 2009, generally agree that variability of the wind does not make the grid unmanageable; and the additional costs, which are modest, can be quantified.[142] For wind power market penetration of up to 20% studies in the UK show a cost of £3-5/MWh.[143] In the United Kingdom, demand for electricity is higher in winter than in summer and so are wind speeds.[144][145]

While the output from a single turbine can vary greatly and rapidly as local wind speeds vary, as more turbines are connected over larger and larger areas the average power output becomes less variable.[146] Studies by Graham Sinden suggest that, in practice, the variations in thousands of wind turbines, spread out over several different sites and wind regimes, are smoothed, rather than intermittent. As the distance between sites increases, the correlation between wind speeds measured at those sites, decreases.[140][147]

The 2021 United Kingdom natural gas supplier crisis increased electricity prices,[148] which were further worsened by rising demand amidst a lack of wind.[149][150] During storms, power prices have occasionally become zero or even negative.[151]

Constraint payments edit

The development of the GB grid was characterised by the close proximity of major sources and demand for electricity. Since wind farms tend to be sited far from centres of demand, transmission capacity can be inadequate to deliver electricity to users, particularly when wind speeds are high. When the grid cannot deliver electricity generated, wind farm operators are paid to switch off. It is normally necessary to pay another generator – normally a gas-fired power station – on the other side of the constraint to switch on as well, to ensure that demand is met. These two incentives are referred to as "constraint payments"[152] or curtailment,[151] and they are one source of criticism of the use of wind power and its implementation; in 2011 it was estimated that nearly £10 million in constraint payments would be received, representing ten times the value of the potential lost electricity generation.[153] Wind farm constraint payments have increased substantially year on year, £224 million, out of a total of £409 million in 2020–21.[154] In addition, £582 million was spent rebalancing the system afterwards, mainly to gas-fired power stations.[151]

Backup and Frequency Response edit

There is some dispute over the necessary amount of reserve or backup required to support the large-scale use of wind and solar energy due to the variable nature of its supply. In a 2008 submission to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, E.ON UK argued that it is necessary to have up to 80–90% backup.[155] Other studies give a requirement of 15% to 22% of installed intermittent capacity.[143] National Grid, which has responsibility for balancing the grid, reported in June 2009 that the electricity distribution grid could cope with on-off wind energy without spending a lot on backup, but only by rationing electricity at peak times using a so-called "smart grid", developing increased energy storage technology and increasing interconnection with the rest of Europe.[156][157] In June 2011, several energy companies including Centrica told the government that 17 gas-fired plants costing £10 billion would be needed by 2020 to act as back-up generation for wind. However, as they would be standing idle for much of the time they would require "capacity payments" to make the investment economic, on top of the subsidies already paid for wind.[citation needed] In 2015–2016, National Grid contracted 10 coal and gas-fired plants to keep spare capacity on standby for all generation modes, at a cost of £122 million, which represented 0.3% of an average electricity bill.[158]

Grid scale battery storage is being developed in order to cope with the variability in wind and solar power. As of May 2021, 1.3 GW of grid storage batteries was active,[159][160] along with the traditional 2.5 GW of pumped storage at Dinorwig, Cruachan and Ffestiniog.

With the increase in proportion of energy being generated by wind and solar on the UK grid, there is a significant reduction in synchronous generation. Therefore, in order to ensure grid stability, the National grid ESO is piloting a range of demand side and supply side frequency response products.[161]

Public opinion edit

Surveys of public attitudes across Europe and in many other countries show strong public support for wind power.[162][163][164] About 80 per cent of EU citizens support wind power.[165]

Which should be increased in Scotland?[166]

A 2003 survey of residents living around Scotland's 10 existing wind farms found high levels of community acceptance and strong support for wind power, with much support from those who lived closest to the wind farms. The results of this survey support those of an earlier Scottish Executive survey 'Public attitudes to the Environment in Scotland 2002', which found that the Scottish public would prefer the majority of their electricity to come from renewables and which rated wind power as the cleanest source of renewable energy.[167] A survey conducted in 2005 showed that 74% of people in Scotland agree that wind farms are necessary to meet current and future energy needs. When people were asked the same question in a Scottish renewables study conducted in 2010, 78% agreed. The increase is significant as there were twice as many wind farms in 2010 as there were in 2005. The 2010 survey also showed that 52% disagreed with the statement that wind farms are "ugly and a blot on the landscape". 59% agreed that wind farms were necessary and that how they looked was unimportant.[168] Scotland is planning to obtain 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.[169]

A British 2015 survey showed 68% support and 10% opposition to onshore wind farms.[170]

Politics edit

In the UK, the ruling Conservative government was previously opposed to further onshore wind turbines and cancelled subsidies for new onshore wind turbines from April 2016.[171] The former prime minister David Cameron stated that "We will halt the spread of onshore wind farms",[172] and claimed that "People are fed up with onshore wind" though polls of public opinion showed the converse.[173] Leo Murray of Possible (formerly 10:10 Climate Action) said, "It looks increasingly absurd that the Conservatives have effectively banned Britain's cheapest source of new power."[174] As the UK's Conservative government was opposed to onshore wind power it attempted to cancel existing subsidies for onshore wind turbines a year early from April 2016, although the House of Lords struck those changes down.[175]

The wind power industry has claimed that the policy will increase electricity prices for consumers as onshore wind is one of the cheapest power technologies,[172] although the government disputes this,[171] and it is estimated that 2,500 turbines will not now be built.[171] Questions have been raised about whether the country will now meet its renewable obligations, as Committee on Climate Change has stated that 25GW of onshore wind may be needed by 2030.[176]

In 2020, the Boris Johnson-led government decided to permit onshore wind power, and since December 2021 onshore wind developers have been able to compete in subsidy auctions with solar power and offshore wind.[177][178] On 24 September 2020, Boris Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to renewables, especially wind power and nuclear in the United Kingdom. He said that the UK can be the "Saudi Arabia of wind power",[179] and that

We've got huge, huge gusts of wind going around the north of our country—Scotland. Quite extraordinary potential we have for wind.[180]

Records edit

December 2014 was a record breaking month for UK wind power. A total of 3.90 TWh of electricity was generated in the month – supplying 13.9% of the UK's electricity demand.[181] On 19 October 2014, wind power supplied just under 20% of the UK's electrical energy that day. Additionally, as a result of eight of 16 nuclear reactors being offline for maintenance or repair, wind produced more energy than nuclear did that day.[182][183] The week starting 16 December 2013, wind generated a record 783,886 MWh – providing 13% of Britain's total electricity needs that week. And on 21 December, a record daily amount of electricity was produced with 132,812 MWh generated, representing 17% of the nation's total electricity demand on that day.[184]

In January 2018 metered wind power peaked at over 10 GW and contributed up to a peak of 42% of the UK's total electricity supply.[185] In March, maximum wind power generation reached 14 GW, meaning nearly 37% of the nation's electricity was generated by wind power operating at over 70% capacity.[186] On 5 December 2019, maximum wind power generation reached 15.6 GW.[187] At around 2 am on 1 July 2019, wind power was producing 50.64% of the electricity supply, perhaps the first time that over half of the UK's electricity was produced by wind,[188] while at 2:00 am on 8 February 2019, wind power was producing 56.05% of the electricity supply.[189] Wind power first exceeded 16GW on 8 December 2019 during Storm Atiyah.[190]

On Boxing Day 2020, a record 50.67% of energy used in the United Kingdom was generated by wind power. However, it was not the highest daily amount of energy ever generated by wind turbines; that came earlier in December 2020, when demand was higher than on Boxing Day and wind turbines supplied 40% of the energy required by the National Grid (17.3 GW).[191][192] However, on 26 August 2020, wind briefly contributed 59.9% of the grids electricity mix.[193]

In 2022 a new record was set on 24 May with maximum wind power generation reaching 19.916 GW.[194] Then on 2 November wind generation reached 20.896 GW, providing 53% of Britain’s electricity between 12:00pm and 12:30pm.[195]

10 January 2023 saw 21.620 GW of generation, the first time over 21 GW had been produced by wind power in the UK.[196]

Manufacturing edit

As of 2020, there were no major UK-based wind turbine manufacturers: most are headquartered in Denmark, Germany and the USA.

In 2014, Siemens announced plans to build facilities for offshore wind turbines in Kingston upon Hull, England, as Britain's wind power rapidly expands. The new plant was expected to begin producing turbine rotor blades in 2016. By 2019, blades were being shipped in large numbers.[197] The plant and the associated service centre, in Green Port Hull nearby, will employ about 1,000 workers. The facilities will serve the UK market, where the electricity that major power producers generate from wind grew by about 38 per cent in 2013, representing about 6 per cent of total electricity, according to government figures. At the time there were plans to continue to increase Britain's wind-generating capacity, to 14 GW by 2020.[29] In fact, that figure was exceeded in late 2015.

On 16 October 2014, TAG Energy Solutions announced the mothballing and semi closure of its Haverton Hill construction base near Billingham with between 70 and 100 staff redundancies after failing to secure any subsequent work following the order for 16 steel foundations for the Humber Estuary in East Yorkshire.[198]

In June 2016, Global Energy Group announced it had signed a contract in association with Siemens to fabricate and assemble turbines for the Beatrice Wind Farm, at its Nigg Energy Park site. It hopes in the future to become a centre for excellence and has opened a skills academy to help re-train previous offshore workers for green energy projects.[199]

During 2021, £900M were invested in UK offshore wind power manufacturing.[200] The UK offshore wind industry occupied 19,600 people directly in 2021, while thousands others worked in related businesses.[201]

Specific regions edit

Wind power in Scotland edit

Wind power is Scotland's fastest growing renewable energy technology, with 5328 MW of installed capacity as of March 2015. This includes 5131 MW of onshore wind and 197 MW of offshore wind.[202]

Whitelee Wind Farm near Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire is the largest onshore wind farm in the United Kingdom with 215 Siemens and Alstom wind turbines and a total capacity of 539 MW.[203] Clyde Wind Farm near Abington, South Lanarkshire is the UK's second largest onshore wind farm comprising 152 turbines with a total installed capacity of 350 MW.[204] There are many other large onshore wind farms in Scotland, at various stages of development, including some that are in community ownership.

Robin Rigg Wind Farm in the Solway Firth is Scotland's only commercial-scale, operational offshore wind farm. Completed in 2010, the farm comprises 60 Vestas turbines with a total installed capacity of 180 MW.[205] Scotland is also home to two offshore wind demonstration projects: The two turbine, 10 MW Beatrice Demonstrator Project located in the Moray Firth, has led to construction of the 84 turbine, 588MW Beatrice Wind Farm set to begin in 2017 and the single turbine, 7 MW Fife Energy Park Offshore Demonstration Wind Turbine in the Firth of Forth. There are also several other commercial-scale and demonstration projects in the planning stages.[206]

The siting of turbines is often an issue, but multiple surveys have shown high local community acceptance for wind power in Scotland.[207][208][209] There is further potential for expansion, especially offshore given the high average wind speeds, and a number of large offshore wind farms are planned.

The Scottish Government has achieved its target of generating 50% of Scotland's electricity from renewable energy by 2015, and is hoping to achieve 100% by 2020. Renewables produced 97.4% of Scotland's net electricity in 2020, mostly from wind power.[210]

In July 2017 work commissioning an experimental floating wind farm known as Hywind at Peterhead began. The wind farm is expected to supply power to 20,000 homes. Manufactured by Statoil, the floating turbines can be located in water up to a kilometre deep.[211] In its first two years of operation the facility with five floating wind turbines, giving a total installed capacity of 30 MW, has averaged a capacity factor in excess of 50%[212]

See also edit

Related lists
Related United Kingdom pages
Developers and operators
Other related

References edit

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